Total Recall

When I first got my Jaguar CD unit, the subject of saving my progress in any CD-based games I subsequently purchased was the furthest thing from my mind. I never thought I'd ever own a Jaguar CD, so the finer details were an irrelevance at the time - the mere fact that I was in possession of the add-on was good enough for me. After the initial glow of wonder had worn off though, it quickly became apparent that there was no built in storage capacity in the Jaguar CD, and every time I turned a game off my progress was wiped from existence. This isn't really a problem with titles like Vid Grid or Blue Lightning as they're good for a quick blast every now and then regardless of whether you can save your progress...but games like Battlemorph and Myst are pretty much redundant without some way of saving your adventure's status. I did a little bit of research and discovered the existence of the Memory Track - a memory module designed specifically for the Jaguar CD. I also discovered just how rare and expensive the things were, and once again resigned myself to never owning one and being destined to forever play the first few missions of a CD game before turning off.

This all changed recently, however. I was minding my own business on Facebook when a friend shared an image of a load of boxed Jaguar games that retro-gaming retailer Level Up Games had just acquired. I quickly glanced at the image and was about to just scroll past it (I already had 99% of the games pictured) when up in the corner I noticed something oddly familiar - a boxed Memory Track! I quickly messaged Level Up about the item and asked how much they were selling it for. The answer came back: £35. Now, this may sound like a lot of money for what is essentially just a memory card, but these things can fetch double that on eBay and the like, so I bit the bullet and decided the time was right for me to own one. I paid the fee and a few days later, the Memory Track dropped through the letter box:

As you would imagine, the Memory Track doesn't really do a lot other than save your progress in compatible games. Contrary to this though, the back of the box lists the following 'exciting' things you can do with your new purchase:
  • Store high scores - break your own record
  • Store game progress to a specific point or level - pick up where you left off
  • Store specific character configurations - save the characters you created
  • Store particular levels or worlds - use them later
The third point there is a little puzzling - I can't think of any Jaguar CD games that allow you to create your own characters. Maybe the leftovers from a title that was planned for the system and then dropped?

I was a little perplexed that there is no obvious way to access a menu through the Jaguar CD - indeed the system doesn't even acknowledge the presence of the Memory Track until it prompts you to save your progress in whichever game it is that you're playing. Out of curiosity, I took the CD unit off the top of my Jag and put the Memory Track directly into the base system...and was confronted by this:

So there you have it. The Memory Track is a functional and pretty essential piece of kit if you have a Jaguar CD. I do like that it is styled after t regular game cartridge, but this was probably just down to ease of manufacture. I'm still a little bemused at the lack of at least a small amount of internal memory in the Jaguar CD unit itself...but I'm happy with the purchase and even happier that I can now save my progress in my CD games.

Thanks again to Level Up Games for the fast postage and great customer service. Be sure to check them out on Facebook.

A Tale of Two Cybermorphs

It's not a commonly known fact, but there are two different versions of Cybermorph. The original version was released in 1993 and was a pack-in game with the Jaguar console, and it comes on a 2MB cartridge. On firing up the 1993 version of the game (you can tell which version you have by either looking at the date on the title screen or the date/serial number in the bottom right of the cartridge label), players are greeted by a short introductory sequence, 'morphing' title screen images and a pretty nice theme tune. The later 1994 cart however, features none of this - it literally goes from static title screen, to the level select and then straight to the game...all in total silence. Tellingly, the 1994 version of Cybermorph comes on a smaller 1MB cart, so this aesthetic detail was obviously cut to squeeze the game onto the smaller media.

The main game doesn't really differ - although there is apparently less speech in the later variant. I understand that the original version of the game is slightly rarer than the 1994 re-issue, but neither game is worth much so don't get too excited if you have the 93 iteration...just sit back and enjoy that menu music.

I've made a little video showing the minor differences between the two versions below:

Autograph Hunting

Over the last few months, I have been privileged enough to have been allowed to attend some pretty amazing gaming events as part of the RetroCollect team. My duties at these events have mainly been to help man the stand, speak to gamers about the site and generally just have fun whilst encouraging people to come and play some games and compete in challenges. Naturally, there's also been a lot of wandering around these events, meeting people who I speak to on Twitter and also the purchasing of lots of cool games and gaming hardware. The most recent event I attended was the massive Play Expo at Manchester's Event City.

I attended last year's event as a member of the public and it was at that event that I first met the creator of Tempest 2000 and TxK (amongst others), Jeff Minter. He was in attendance again at this year's event and I managed to speak to him before the doors opened to the public. He's a really nice guy and has a lot of time for fans of his games - I even got to have a quick go on the Occulus Rift version of TxK and had the cool as hell 'debug' mode demonstrated to me first hand. The debug mode allows players to pause the action and then wander around within the game world, while the Occulus lets you gawp at the monsters crawling up the web in full 3D. It's very impressive. Naturally, expecting Mr Minter to be at Play, I came fully prepared - I had my copy of Tempest 2000 with me and asked him to sign it...which he did. I also scored a copy of Llamasoft's lesser spotted original Amiga light synth, Trip-A-Tron on floppy disk. I don't own an Amiga of any flavour (yet), but it was a nice little extra and even cooler that I got it off the man who actually created it.

Earlier in the year, I attended Revival 2014 at Wolverhampton Racecourse. Unlike Play Expo, Revival is purely a retrogaming event and was one of the best exhibitions I've yet attended. Pretty much every console you could care to think of was either available to be played on, available to buy or at the very least, on display. It was at Revival that I finally managed to meet Kieren 'Laird' Hawken in person. Kieren is very probably the most knowledgeable Jaguar collector I know of - indeed it was his article on the Jaguar that was published in Retro Gamer Magazine and he was a guest on the RetroCollect podcast we did on the Jag. I must say that while I obviously love the Jag and lament at the missed opportunity it represents, Kieren's fondness for the system goes far beyond my own. It was cool to finally meet the guy and also play some of his rarer Jaguar games; Kieren had a little display and had his Jaguar Pro Controller as well as Rayman and Sky Hammer carts available for the public to sample. I'd never played either of these titles prior to attending Revival and I was pretty stunned by the quality of Rayman's colourful cartoony visuals and outstanding animation - it certainly looks better than the PlayStation version I own.

The real show-stopper however, was Sky Hammer. I'd never seen the game in motion before and actually playing it was a real eye-opener: this game looks incredible. Furthermore, the fluidity of the game engine is unrivalled on the system and really proves just how good Jag games can look if programmed properly. For those who don't know anything about Sky Hammer, it was a late release and plays a lot like Descent or Forsaken in that you have full 360 degree movement in a futuristic cityscape and must fly around between the towering, neon-lit buildings shooting enemies and completing various mission parameters. I remember reading a review of Sky Hammer in a copy of Games Master Magazine way back when, and the story of it's eventual release is an interesting one. It is worth seeking out if you can afford it, although it is quite highly-priced so it may be one for my wish list.

Worms was also on display
Revival was a really great event and the highlight for me was meeting one of my all-time gaming heroes, John Romero. I absolutely love the Doom series and own pretty much every version of the game for consoles, as well as the other id Software titles that came either before or after; so meeting the man responsible was an incredible experience. It was even more incredible because he was such a genuinely nice man. I got to meet and chat with Mr Romero before the event was actually open to the public and he told me a few cool stories about the development of 32X Doom. One thing I'm kicking myself for not asking was the truth about Jaguar Quake and whether it was ever on the cards. That would have put the whole thing to bed there and then. Alas, I totally forgot to enquire. It wasn't all bad though - he posed for a photo and also signed my copy of Doom for the Jag. Once the doors opened and the public streamed into the event, Romero was absolutely mobbed by fans and he just stood there posing for photos, signing memorabilia and just generally chatting with people. He was a really cool guy and it was an honour to have finally met him.

Tempest signed by Minter, Doom by Romero. 
So, two amazing events done and dusted and some really cool people from the history and present of the Jaguar met in person. Can't really complain!

Classic Game Room Plays Some Jag!

Classic Game Room is one of the most popular series on Youtube, and in this episode they turn their attention to the Jag. While not as scathing on the Jag as The Angry Video Game Nerd was, they still pick unfairly on the system...but then, they also offer up a fairly agreeable summary of Atari's swan song hardware. Praise is heaped on Tempest 2000 too, so that's good enough for me. Enjoy!